Mexican Ambassador to Seoul Martha Ortiz de Rosas Gomez talks to The Korea Times during a recent interview held at her office in Seoul.
/ Korea Times photo by Shim Hyun-chul
By Kim Young-jin
Korea’s emergence as the first Asian country to host a G20 summit won’t be the only new happening when the forum opens in Seoul on Nov. 11 - it will also mark the first time development issues appear on the agenda.
G20 leaders agreed at the Toronto Summit in June to establish a working group on development, recognizing the importance of narrowing the gap between rich and poor nations in achieving balanced growth.
Seoul, aiming to act as a bridge between the advanced and developing worlds, has made the issue a key part of its chairmanship platform.
Though some may grumble that the issue should be left for the U.N., Seoul believes that the sustainable global growth the G20 seeks cannot be attained with a widening development gyre.
In this sense, Korea has a surefire supporter in Mexico, another G20 country busy voicing the concerns of developing and emerging economies.
In a recent interview with The Korea Times, Mexican Ambassador to Seoul Martha Ortiz de Rosas Gomez said the G20 must go further in tackling developmental gaps and outlined ways Mexico believes the forum can better represent developing countries in both vision and policy.
“The approach right now is one of economic growth that doesn’t take into consideration the social effects of the global financial crisis,” she said at her office in Hannam-dong, Seoul.
“We believe that a more sustainable approach is necessary. Korea’s proposal in development is a good opportunity to balance the G20 agenda.”
In particular, she said the forum should explore concrete policies directed toward tackling poverty, generating sustainable employment and helping labor forces adapt to new economic trends - all in a bid to achieve the U.N. poverty reduction benchmarks known as the Millennium Development Goals.
Mexico will take an active role when the working group meets at the summit, Ortiz de Rosas said. Co-hosted by President Lee Myung-bak and his South African counterpart Jacob Zuma, the committee will discuss ways to help developing countries alleviate poverty through faster growth.
Mexico, under the leadership of President Felipe Calderon, will seek to expand the scope of the G20’s development focus to go beyond just assisting low-income countries, the ambassador said.
“We would like to see more elements aimed at helping not just the countries with the lowest incomes, but also emerging economies that have large poor populations,” she said. Mexico, despite being Latin America’s second largest economy, has some 20 million living below the poverty line.
“Within the G20 there are still deprived regions and vulnerable populations that need to overcome considerable challenges. The G20 should be one of the mechanisms to overcome them,” Ortiz de Rosas said, noting that most of the world’s poor live in such areas.
Mexico will strive to be a “very active member” in the working group as it hammers out a final document outlining its main development objectives, according to the ambassador.
The role would be in line with the country’s growing prominence on the world stage, not only as an economic force, but also in providing leadership on pressing global issues. The country, expected by many to be the world’s fifth largest economy by 2050, is slated to host the G20 Summit in 2012 and the next round of the United Nations' climate change negotiations in November.
Mexico’s G20 development efforts won’t be limited to the working group. It has also been active in pushing for G20 policies that put in place stronger insurances against liquidity shocks in international financial markets. This includes the strengthening of international safety nets, another priority of the Seoul summit.
One of Mexico’s main interests, the ambassador said, will be to enhance of the International Monetary Fund’s Flexible Credit Line (FLC), a program that aims to help countries receive help before crises hit. Mexico took advantage of the program in response to the recent crisis, and though it didn’t ultimately use the available loan, the move was seen to have shielded the economy from global market volatility.
Ortiz de Rosas acknowledged the role of the program in assisting Mexico, but said its terms still need to be tweaked to increase its accessibility as a safety net. “Mexico sees a need to strengthen the program in terms of access, cost and maturity. These elements are essential for tackling future crises,” she said.
She added that because the program targets economies whose policies it looks favorably upon, some in the developing world are left out of the loop. “The G20, with the financial institutions, should provide those countries with access to credit should they need it.”
Ortiz de Rosas also stressed Mexico’s stance on hastening the reform of the IMF’s governance structure to better represent developing and emerging countries. Additionally, the country opposes a global bank levy, citing increased capital costs such a measure could have, but says it will comply with relevant measures drawn up by the G20.
The ambassador, who lauded Korea’s efforts thus far in balancing the agenda, urged Seoul to strive to get participants on the same page, however challenging the task may be, when hosting the forum.
“There’s no one size fits all solution to the economic and financial challenges our countries are facing,” she said. “For us, we’d like to see Korea fulfill its role as chair in a way that produces results by consensus, by working as facilitator to involve and promote interaction among all 20 leaders.”
To Ortiz de Rosas, Korea’s strong rebound from the crisis makes it well equipped not only to play a leading role in clearing the fallout from the crisis but also to continue voicing the concerns of the developing world.
“In this sense, Korea should play a leading role in mapping out post-crisis global programs,” the ambassador said. “And at the same time, it can convey the interests of emerging and developing economies in order to support the global efforts towards a more balanced growth.
“This will indeed guarantee the success of the G20 Summit in Seoul.”